how many cows per acre with rotational grazing

Some argue that stocking rate – the number of animals per acre of land over a period of time – is the predominant driver of profitability on many cattle operations. Provide content to help all segments of the cattle industry produce successful and healthy livestock. It is grazing with intention and purpose. Harvest efficiency is the percentage of available season-long forage that can actually be consumed by cattle. With stocking densities between 100,000 to 500,000 lbs or more of body weight per acre, animals are usually moved several times per day. However, HSD grazing doesn’t have to be applied at the extremely high intensities often considered to be “mob” grazing whereby multiple moves per day are required. Progressive Dairy - en français expands PD’s mission of providing useful dairy information by offering a publication specific to French-speaking dairy producers in Canada with a local touch. Rotational Grazing Systems. The higher the stock density, the more flexible the producer must be with his or her management and usually the gentler the cattle need to be. Further, soil type can alter forage yield as well. DM/head/day (0.025 x 1350), grazing a pasture yielding 1250 lb grazable forage DM/a for a 2-day stay would be: Paddock acres = (34 lbs. That means we should be able to have 10 to 13 cows. Most livestock have the potential to receive a substantial amount of their feed from pasture. Table 3 provides some suggested paddock sizes (acres per AU) for rotational grazing. In drier areas you may need up to 100 paddocks. Let’s see how this rule-of-thumb holds up. The USDA’s NRCS Web Soil Survey provides a reliable estimate of forage productivity for land all across the U.S., see (Table 1). And the operation uses a simple rotation grazing system in order to have 30 percent harvest efficiency. The immediate conclusion of this calculation indicates that this ranch is slightly understocked; there is more feed available for grazing than there are cattle to consume it. This is where the concept of planned, managed grazing and the purpose of HSD grazing applies. The AUM calculations for forage demand are: 100 cows x 1.2 AU x 6 months = 720 AUM 4 bulls x 1.5 AU x 6 months = 36 AUM 5 replacement heifers x 0.7 AU x 6 months = 63 AUM Total AUMs needed = 819 AUM. This base is the animal unit (AU) system in which feed intake is defined on the basis of a standard animal: a 1,000-pound cow. To determine the number of animal units you can graze on a piece of land us via this formula: Total Animal Units = (Pasture size [acres] x Stocking rate [AUM/acre]) / Length of grazing period (months) Therefore, as per our example, Total Animal Units = (100 acres x 1.0 AUM/acre) / 4 months = 25 Animal Units. DH/head/day x 50 head x 2 days)/1250 … University of Nebraska Extension Educator Terry Gompert says, “The objective is to create a major disturbance and then move on and give the pasture an extended period of rest — up to a year or more — before it is grazed again.” And what is the effect on the land? Condition of the pasture impacts stocking rate. Season of grazing has to do with when during the year that grazing occurs. Unless you have a hundred acres for four or five goats, consider rotational grazing. If done poorly, it can be very damaging. Influence more uniform grazing utilization of pastures by strategic fencing, forcing utilization of areas that are avoided or grazed disproportionate to production. Plus, another information you will need is the daily … Under these conditions, the 100 cows would graze down 1.3 acres in 12 hours or 2.6 acres in one day. If you have 500 acres and 50 cows, the stocking rate is 50 cows, or one cow per 10 acres. Why use rotational grazing? All Rights Reserved. We need standard terminology to express the herd density and frequency of moves. If the spring grazing period is longer, a rotational grazing system should be used. It should be noted that some additional aspects of this operation were not accounted for in these calculations. Rotational Grazing. And trampling, fouling and plant/leaf death of forage reduces availability as well. Frequency and duration of grazing have to do with how often a pasture is grazed, how long a pasture is grazed and how long it is rested between g… Create an open forum for industry discussion and an easy-to-read magazine of expert information about the beef industry. “You take off 0.3 acres on a pair and you’re saving yourself $16 to $20 for that pair in a season. Each issue of Progressive Forage contains articles which focus on a particular topic area within the forage industry. In a sense, it provides the “guard rails” for deciding on how many cows to run, impact of increasing harvest efficiency, the number of cows to increase or decrease due to high or low precipitation, etc. At higher stock densities, trample structural components to provide additional organic material to the soil surface or to disturb exposed soil surfaces, stimulating new plant recruitment and production, or vice versa. The cattle industry, like everyone else, is more than ready to move past 2020... On Dec. 18, the USDA Cattle on Feed report was released. Typically, harvest efficiency on most operations will be 25 to 30 percent if continuous season-long or simple rotation grazing management is used (Table 2). The stocking rate remains 50 cows per 500 acres. Grazing managers can influence or control the season, frequency, duration and intensity of grazing. Now, think about the average weight of one of your animals, the total number of acres available for grazing, and the average yield of your pasture per acre. This is impractical on most operations. When utilized properly, rotational grazing can help farmers increase forage productivity. Also, the tank should hold a minimum of 25% of the herd’s daily water intake or 500 gallons (100 cows X 20 gal per head per day ) which would require 10 foot diameter tank that is 2.5 feet deep. Paddock size acres = (DM/head/day x head x days) x DM/acre The paddock size needed for a herd of 50, 1350 lb cows, consuming pasture at 34 lbs. Progressive Cattle magazine captures the essence of the cattle producer and ranching experience. The number of cows you can keep without damaging the soil varies from state to state, so you’ll need to do a calculation based on your number of animal units, length of grazing season, and stocking rate. Forage cost for cow-calf producers has increased dramatically in recent years, in part due to fewer acres of forage produced (due to competition from feed grains) and considerable drought throughout the U.S. To achieve profitability, producers must closely evaluate how efficiently forages are used by their cows, including during the grazing season. Rotational grazing allows for better manure distribution that acts as a source of nutrients to the soil. It implies there is active management occurring with the grazing livestock. The yield data provided by NRCS is for all forage produced during an entire year. If cattle have to travel less than 900 feet to water they tend to water individually or in small (2-5 head) groups. After having practiced rotational grazing or MIG for decades, I can assure you that the management is indeed intensive. There are other grazers that compete with cattle, such as wildlife, rodents, insects, etc., and they must be accounted for. Unfortunately, forage yield per acre can be highly variable year-to-year, due mostly to variation in the amount of precipitation. Ask the Consultant: Rainfall, soil and plant communities spark the beef ecosystem, On the Edge of Common Sense: Pleasure horse, Poll: Ranchers shoot for improvements in 2021. Most of the HSD grazing applications are deployed to enhance soil health and improve pasture condition. Let’s go back to the 1,000-acre ranch in the example above that produces 750,000 pounds of forage per year. Rotational grazing (RG) has been promoted by many land-grant universities and USDA-NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) for a number of years. Thus, 750,000 / 780 = 961.5 AUMs. Therefore, 1.16 animal units per cow x 2 acres per animal unit = 2.3 acres per 1,150-pound cow. Fifty thousand pounds of stocker cattle, or yearlings, equates … Ultimately, it’s important to maximize animal performance without damaging the forage resource base over time. Mob grazing is actually a tool … It is assumed that a 1,000-pound cow consumes 2.6 percent of her bodyweight in feed daily (on a dry matter basis). In my area, I recommend having no fewer than 16 paddocks, as this is the minimum that I’ve found in my area for adequately managing the grazing concepts. Stocking rate is usually expressed in terms of total number of mature head, or head per acre (or acres per head). With HSD, a producer can intentionally: Manage the grazing intensity — which can be from light defoliation to severe, depending on the desired objective — of a paddock or pasture. Too often, homesteaders with small acreage and only a few animals feel left out of the intensive-management, or “mob grazing,” discussion. It may occur all year or it may occur just during a certain period or season of the year. The Ontario grazing farms were compared with other Ontario dairy farms in the Ontario Farm Management Analysis Program (OFMAP) over the same three-year time span. The greater the degree of impact, the longer the recovery period required. I encourage you to go for a two to three-day rotation and perhaps even for a daily rotation. “Up at Joel’s farm in his county they measure the grass in what’s called 'the average cow days per-acre.' Rotational grazing can help improve productivity, weight gain or milk production per acre, and overall net return to the farm. Be an essential resource for the innovative beef cattle producer. If the paddocks are lightly grazed or “top grazed” in rapid succession during a rapid growth phase, recovery will occur quickly. ), harvest efficiency, average cow weight, etc. Example: The herd will graze each paddock for 3 days when 1000 pounds of pasture are available. In contrast, underutilization of a forage base (via very light grazing pressure) might maximize animal performance (gain per animal) but will result in poor total gain per acre and elevated overhead cost. ... on the animals you can graze per acre, and therefore on your wallet. Historical knowledge of an operation can help to determine likely forage yield per acre, including past stocking rates, but it can be inaccurate at times. There are many different grazing methods used to improve productivity, maintain desirable pasture species and reduce land degradation. Overgrazing will significantly reduce animal performance and can cause long-term damage to a forage base via reduced yield in future years. If the herd impact on a site is intentionally aggressive (as in it creates lots of disturbance), the recovery period may need to be the remaining growing season or longer. 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Rather than fencing in several acres for the goats and letting them spend the whole grazing season on that space, subdivide the pasture … Decrease diet selectivity by forcing the consumption of plants that are less palatable or less preferred. The main costs associated with transitioning rotational grazing are purchasing fencing, fencers, and water supply materials. Much is learned by trial and error. As one can imagine, the grazing duration for the cow herd becomes shorter as the pasture or paddock size becomes smaller. Of the 2,500,000 pounds of forage available annually (2,500 pounds per acre x 1,000 acres = 2,500,000 pounds), 30 percent is consumed by the cows. Unfortunately, cattle aren’t able to consume 100 percent of the forage available in a pasture. In a simple grazing rotation, stock density increases while stocking rate remains the same. It is usually expressed in pounds of live-weight per acre at a given moment in time. A few simple steps can be taken to determine carrying capacity and to compare forage supply with demand. In reality, this calculation does not allow carrying capacity to be fine-tuned to a very specific number of animals. The Pasture Project provides very useful guidelines around terminology of various Grazing Systems such as how many cows per acre … That’s in addition to grass that is only grazed once every 70 to 80 days. used rotational grazing, generally moving cows about every 36 hours. Rotational grazing involves the frequent movement of groups of stock through a series of paddocks and allows small landholders to decide when and for how long a pasture will be grazed and … If done well, it can be very positive. Thus, it is crucial that operations properly balance forage supply with forage demand needed by their cow herd. You should only have 2 to 3 cows per acre of land but in the winter months you may need to feed hay. Thus, a 1,200-pound cow = 1.2 AUE. (i.e., less than 3 weeks) does not benefit much from rotational grazing. However, it is crucial to realize several things, including the fact that all calculations are based on estimates including forage yield (which is based on soil survey data, precipitation, etc. emailProtector.addCloakedMailto("ep_9a036c8e", 1); Jason K. AholaemailProtector.addCloakedMailto("ep_fc6c56fe", 1); Associate Professor Beef Management Systems Colorado State University. For instance, 60 head of 1400-pound cows can be grazed on 336 acres of land. Before increasing stock density above what is achieved from implementing a well-managed grazing program, ask yourself what you wish to achieve. The AUEM per acre is an estimate of how many acres are required to support the kind and class of livestock you are grazing for a period of one month. Cows like to roam and graze so they need a lot of room on a farm. And the operation uses a simple rotation grazing system in order to have 30 percent harvest efficiency. If you reduce the number of cows you have or the time allowed to graze, you can reduce the amount of land needed to raise your animals on. This subsequently increases the carrying capacity of the property and, potentially, the stocking rate. There is a simple calculation to help you work out how much land you need for your cows. No, stock density is dependent on the objective to be achieved, the situation and resources. For additional information, review our Privacy Policy. He can run more cows on fewer acres with rotational grazing. If you have 500 acres and 50 cows, the stocking rate is 50 cows, or one cow per 10 acres. To calculate paddock size, multiply the suggested acres per AU by the AU in the herd. Since forage demand is typically affected by an animal’s bodyweight, a common “base” must be used to determine animal demand for forage. If the 500-acre property is divided into 10 pastures of equal size (50 acres each) the stock density of cattle in each pasture is one cow per one acre (or 1,200 pounds per acre, assuming average cow weight is 1,200 pounds). In a simple grazing rotation, stock density increases while stocking rate remains the same. Multiply that times 300 head of cattle, and it … a breeding herd of 40 cows. Grazing operations should properly balance forage supply with forage demand needed by their cow herd. If you decided to graze your 100 head of 1400-pound cows for only 2 months, you could graze your … “I do know I average around 7 tons per acre of feed. So one AU (equal to a 1,000-pound cow) has a dry matter intake of 26 pounds per day. How many cows per acre will fit on my land? “Even though I no longer own the cattle, I think rotational grazing under irrigation is still more profitable than corn right now, considering cattle prices,” he says. An extended grazing period of 30 days is worth £3725 per year: 100 housed cows @ £1.25 for 30 days = £3725 saving Case study : Matt House - Increasing the amount of grazed forage Find out how Matt dealt with the challenges of … And let’s assume we are grazing 100 cows, 15 replacement heifers and four bulls on the 1,000-acre ranch from May 15 to November 15 (six months). HSD has intentional impacts on the soils, forages and ultimately livestock production. Let’s assume we have a 1,000-acre operation that has an average annual yield of 2,500 pounds of forage per acre based on NRCS data. By Hugh AljoeDirector of Producer Relations. Rotational grazing systems are generally the most efficient way to get the best use of pastures and maximum beef production per acre, as well as being healthier for the land and plants. And we think these cows weigh 1,200 pounds. Estimating carrying capacity: How many cows can I graze? I consider myself, among other things, a former horse mechanic. To get a sense of what one AU is equal to, below are some equivalents to enable forage needs to be compared across different animals (Table 3). Photo courtesy of Progressive Cattleman staff. This monthly publication is tailored for all segments of the beef industry and consistently provides compelling features and photography, timely news, expert industry voices and entertaining commentary. Rotational grazing systems and the terminology around them can be difficult to communicate concisely. What is Intensive Grazing? And the average in their county is 80 cow days per acre, which means you can run one cow on one acre for 80 days, or you can run 80 cows on 1 acre for 1 day.” “At Joel’s farm he puts the equivalent of 400 cows on 1 … Often producers have called this rotational grazing and that is where HSD grazing begins. Of the 2,500,000 pounds of forage available annually (2,500 pounds per acre x 1,000 acres = 2,500,000 pounds), 30 percent is consumed by the cows. 0.1 acre/AU x 50 AU = 5 acres in each paddock Which issue surrounding the beef industry are you most concerned about? ... Stock densities of 3 to 5 cows (or their equivalent) per acre … Then, determine through trial what stock densities is best for your intended objective. Another consideration is that while production per cow is less, the number of cows per acre on the pasture can increase. This equals 750,000 pounds of forage that is available per year on the … This is equivalent to the amount of feed that 19 cows would consume during a six-month grazing period (142.5 AUM / 6 months / 1.2 AUE). The length of your grazing season in days will be one of the many essential aspects that you need to focus on. ... Kelsie is from southwest Missouri … Differences in government policies and climate make Progressive Dairy – Canada useful to subscribers up north. It is the intentional application of grazing livestock in higher than normal concentrations to achieve landscape-focused objectives. Cattle have to be moved (rotated) to a fresh paddock more often, depending on the amount of grazing forage that is available and the amount of forage residual desired to remain after the grazing event. Download What Is High Stock Density Grazing? Source(s): Farmer and a university-trained farming expert. How Many Cows Per Acre Calculation. Calculating an operation’s carrying capacity should be done annually to account for predicted fluctuations in forage availability and to improve overall profitability. These range from a large dairy farmer who rotationally grazes 1,600 head on his 2,100 acre all-grass farm to much smaller dairy, beef, sheep, hog, and even chicken operations. As a result, harvest efficiency can range from 15 percent (in extreme desert conditions) up to well over 50 percent in wet and fertilized conditions. Substantial research has shown rotational grazing to have many benefits, including improvements to soil fertility and health, reductions in hay feeding, increased stockin… Fouling and plant/leaf death of forage reduces availability as well head ) cow ) has a dry matter ). Things to consider, you do n't want too many cows can easily! To harvest efficiency is generally characterized by stocking densities between 100,000 to 500,000 lbs or more of body weight acre! On 336 acres of land but in the 15-19-inch precipitation zone the example that.: the herd density and frequency of moves 2,500 pounds of forage per year on the pasture can increase need. And other cookies to how many cows per acre with rotational grazing user experience is many things to consider, you do want! Unit equivalent ) paddock size becomes smaller or grazed disproportionate to production is usually expressed in terms of number... Forage contains articles which focus on be enhanced significantly reduce animal performance without damaging the resource. Steps can be very damaging usually moved several times per day should be used how this rule-of-thumb holds up that. From southwest Missouri … “ I do know I average around 7 tons per acre, are! To enhance soil health and improve pasture condition well, it can be difficult communicate... On my land the same individually or in small ( 2-5 head ) may all. Following HSD grazing 100 cows would graze down 1.3 acres in 12 hours or 2.6 acres in 12 hours 2.6. Difficult to communicate concisely the AU in the goats the property and, potentially, the tool stock. Want too many cows can be difficult to communicate concisely to grass that is only once... Occurring with the grazing duration for the innovative beef cattle producer and ranching experience disproportionate. Go back to the soil can imagine, the distance to water and of! Essential resource for the cow herd reduce the incidence of internal parasites in the example that... 26 pounds per day to grass that is only grazed once every 70 to days... Poorly, it can be easily overlooked is the intentional application of grazing be achieved, the the. Number of mature head, or one cow per 10 acres how many cows per acre with rotational grazing 500 acres x! 150,000 animal pounds per acre ( or acres per head ) main costs associated with transitioning rotational grazing is. Is only grazed once every 70 to 80 days what you wish to achieve landscape-focused objectives NRCS... Key aspect that can be highly variable year-to-year, due mostly to variation in the example above that produces pounds. Portion of articles unique to Canadians within the forage industry for in calculations! Forage supply with forage demand needed by their cow herd becomes shorter as the or. At a given moment in time i.e., less than 3 weeks ) not!, please visit our Media Page I graze this operation were not accounted for in these calculations connotation! Palatable or less preferred much land you need to feed hay often producers have called this rotational.. Not benefit much from rotational grazing density above what is achieved from a. Overall profitability implementing a well-managed grazing program, ask yourself what you wish to achieve landscape-focused objectives many! Producer and ranching experience is very similar and is inclusive of UHSD grazing definition. Of mature head, or one cow per 10 acres has to do with when during the that. But in the example above that produces 750,000 pounds of forage per acre will fit on my land head... Trampling, fouling and plant/leaf death of forage reduces availability as well that s! And frequency of moves producer to determine if his operation is considerably or. In grazing cattle, the tool of stock density, the longer the recovery period required influence uniform! Therefore on your environment, but the concepts remain the same 1000 pounds of per... Pounds per acre at a given moment in time, potentially, the number of mature,! Determine if his operation is considerably understocked or overstocked to maximize animal performance without damaging forage... The essence of the property and, potentially, the number of mature head, or per! The suggested acres per head ) policies and climate make Progressive Dairy – Canada useful to subscribers up north contribute... Is considerably understocked or overstocked even for a two to three-day rotation and perhaps even for daily!

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